Veal shanks, or osso buco in the Orient

I delight in osso buco because I delight in veal, and the deliciously subtle flavour which comes from well-cooked veal bones is blissful. Put them together and you’re in heaven. There are plenty of sound arguments why home cooks shouldn’t bother to make stocks, the basis of the discussion being that stocks require too much work and time to get to a result which can be approximated, compromised or ignored.

But cooking shanks, as in veal or lamb shanks, gives you the best of all worlds: you get some delicious slow-cooked meats, lovely impregnated vegetables and a stock which turns to jelly as soon as it cools down. Osso buco ends up as the savoury equivalent of having stewed apricots in the fridge. If it’s the height of summer, and there’s a stock on the ‘ stove, and stewed ‘cots in the fridge, then you know you’re going to eat well — soup, main course and dessert, with no added labour on the day.

6 veal shanks, sawn through into manageable pieces, depending on their size — It’s worth trying shanks of all ages — from the tiny young vealers, through to those of several months.

2 cups white wine

½ ham hock, rind removed, sawn in half

water to cover 2 carrots, chopped roughly

2 parsnips, chopped roughly

2 cloves garlic, chopped roughly

2–3 chillies, chopped roughly salt

bunch of coriander, chopped roughly

2 stems of lemon grass, sliced

1 piece of ginger, chopped roughly — If you can get galangal, use that.

zest of 1 orange

2 red peppers, sliced in half and deseeded

juice of 1 juicy orange black pepper


Keeping the veal shanks well separated in the pan, brown them in a little oil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.


Remove shanks and deglaze the cooking pan with half of the wine until it cooks down, removing all the sediment with a wooden spoon.


Toss the shanks and the ham hock into a stock pot, and cover them with the juice from the deglazed pan, the rest of the wine, some water, carrots, parsnips, garlic and chillies. Simmer 100–110 minutes, adding salt after 20 minutes. After an hour, add the coriander, lemon grass, ginger and zest.


While the veal is bubbling away, roast the red peppers in a 200°C oven for about 20 minutes, until the skins blister. Allow to cool and rub away the skins. Taste a little, then slice into strips and add to the simmering pot, once it has been cooking for about 90 minutes.


Just before the end of the cooking, add the orange juice and stir until amalgamated. Test the seasoning and adjust if necessary.


Allow to cool and leave overnight. Any fat will rise to the top. There is so much gelatine in the bones the stock will set tight. Remove any fat, and set aside.


If the veal is of the older variety, serve on the bone, and turn your eyes when your company sucks out the marrow; if it’s younger, on obviously smaller bones, remove the meat when cold, and serve in deep bowls with an array of the vegetables, a good pour of the stock and plenty of bread for wiping up.

WINE: Italian Barbarescos are suddenly becoming expensive — basically because Americans have discovered them. They can be big, raw-boned wines, but the best are delicious and perfect for this dish.